Does nutrition support have a role in managing cancer cachexia?

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2016 Dec;10(4):288-292. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000242.


Purpose of review: Cachexia is a negative prognostic factor in cancer patients. The pathogenesis is related to a variable combination of reduced food intake and metabolic changes. However, whether nutritional support may contribute to effectively prevent and treat cachexia remains a debated issue.

Recent findings: Consistent evidence demonstrates that anabolic windows of opportunity occur during the clinical trajectory of cancer patients. Also, the use of specific nutrients, namely omega-3 fatty acids, may enhance the efficacy of nutritional support when tumor-driven inflammatory response is high. Of greater interest, it is now becoming clearer that the use of nutritional support at key time points in the clinical journey of cancer patients (i.e., perioperative period) may extend its clinical benefits beyond those on nutritional status.

Summary: Nutritional support plays a role in managing cancer cachexia, when it is timely delivered, when it provides adequate amounts of calories and proteins, and when it is part of a concurrent palliative care approach. Specific nutrients, that is, omega-3 fatty acids, may help in those cancer patients with high-inflammatory response, and may also contribute to positively influence long-term clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cachexia / diet therapy*
  • Cachexia / etiology*
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Energy Intake
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Nutritional Support / methods*
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Time Factors


  • Dietary Proteins